Jul 10, 2012 6:26 PM by Erin Steuber

Abbeville seafood company fined for nearly $53,000 in backwages

An Abbeville seafood company accused of not paying employees more than $50,000 dollars must now pay the state as well. The Department of Labor fining Harvest Time Seafood, he owner saying he was never aware they were doing anything wrong. Harvest Time Seafood owner Kevin Dartez says most of the $53,000 has been paid to employees. But was unaware he still owed nearly $16,000 in penalties until we talked to him.
"We'll pay whatever they ask," said Dartez. "We're in business to stay in business."
Dartez says an investigation started when a few workers reported mistreatment to the Department of Labor. The department found no wrongdoing but while investigating found migrant workers' wages were too low.
"So they told us that we have to pay them for not making their wage," said Dartez. "And see my argument was 'So what your telling me is I gotta' pay somebody to be disobedient and lazy is that what your telling me?'"
Dartez paid workers according to pounds of seafood they processed, not by the hour.
"Limiting them to working by the hour would cut their wage down sometimes 2-4 dollars an hour," said Dartez.
He says he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. More than half of his workers are family and friends from Mexico, where his wife is from.
"Your enemy can not hardly hurt you because you always have your guard up, but your friends and family, you let them in and they can easily hurt you because your guard is down," said Dartez. "And in that case, that's what happened."
The Department of Labor investigation also found illegal deductions taken out of employee paychecks. These deductions are minimum wage violations under The Fair Labor Standards Act.


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